Analysis: The Accomplishments Of Jean Jacques Rousseau

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The Accomplishments of Jean Jacques Rousseau

Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the few people who could be considered as a jack of all trades. He was a philosopher, author, and composer, and he also dabbled in botany and mathematics. He produced many wonderful works in his lifetime and had made several important contributions to music, literature, and political philosophy.

His professional success belied the difficult childhood that he had. His mother died a few days after he was born, and his father later remarried and left him in the care of his uncle. When he was in his teenage years, Rousseau had to support himself and worked as a servant, tutor, and secretary, among other jobs. His difficulties followed him throughout his adult life;
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King Louis XV liked it so much that he offered to provide Rousseau with a life pension (Rousseau declined it). The piece was performed during the wedding of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, and Beethoven later rearranged the famous duet into a song.

Julie, or the New Heloise
This book was inspired by Rousseau's romantic feelings for a girl named Sophie d'Houdetot. In “Julie, or the New Heloise”, Rousseau tells a love story but also weaves through it his philosophical ideas about autonomy and authenticity. The book stirred emotions in many readers, and hundreds of them wrote letters to Rousseau telling him how his work made them weep. It became so popular that copies flew of the shelves and publishers couldn't keep up with the demand.

“Julie, or the New Heloise” didn't only attract readers but also changed the landscape of fiction writing. Specifically, it paved the way to the development of romanticism as well as the 19th century obsession for Alpine countrysides (the story was set in the Swiss Alps).

Emile, or On
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This resulted to “Confessions”, an autobiography in which he outlined the details of his childhood as well as the experiences he had as an adult. In the book, he talked about his father and how they bonded over reading adventure novels that his mother had left. He also told how and why he convinced his partner Therese Levasseur to give up their children as soon as they were born and revealed that he regretted his decision later on.

“Confessions” was published posthumously in 1782. It grabbed the attention of those who wanted to learn more about Rousseau and the intimate details of his life. More importantly, it paved the way to the modern format of autobiography.

Aside from “Confessions”, Rousseau wrote a couple of other autobiographical works. These include “Reveries of a Solitary Walker”, which is a collection of essays that reveal his love for botany and give insights into his ideas on education and philosophy. He also crafted “Dialogues: Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques”, which he used as a way to reply to his critics.


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